On Being an Introvert

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's summer. That fake season that exists only to children and people in college. I have not had a "proper" summer for years. I'd always had a job or summer school to do, so summer vacation was just a long-time-gone memory for me.

This summer is no different; I now have a real, full time job that requires I show up five days a week. I am however still looking forward to the weekends I have off with John where we can do fun things.

Because believe it or not sometimes I do feel like going out. Sometimes I want to go to a bar and drink something tasty with friends. Or try a new restaurant. Maybe take a trip to the park?

But Valerie, if this is true why then are you always hidden away in your apartment, where turning on the lights causes you to hiss and shield your eyes? If you do like going out like you say, why then do you ignore that mass text inviting you to that club with 500 people you've never before met? Why do you show up late to family gatherings and leave before everyone?

Well that ladies and gentleman is where my writing and the appropriately named Introvert Cat come in. Both of these things will help me - help you understand introverts - you extroverted freak, you.

Yes. I am an introvert. The first step is acceptance.

The next step involves this lovely book:

Just kidding! Sort of.

Some common misconceptions about introverts are that they go out actively trying to avoid conversations because they are:

1.) Rude
2.) Uninterested
3.) Snobby
4.) Shy
5.) Antisocial

None of these are true. Introverts are just introverts.

They can be true. Just like there can be a rude, snobby extrovert but none of these on their own make an introvert.

Why do introverts tend to not talk much?

I can only speak from experience but I'd rather watch, listen. When in big groups people tend to exaggerate their behaviors. Girls can act catty, frat boys end up beating their chests, loners hang out by the chip bowl. By not saying anything for a minute or two I can gather my bearings and see right off the bat who would be the most draining should I have to talk to them. For example at this party I will ask someone to get me a beer from the keg as to dodge the boys. I will skirt around the girls should my lack of designer labels spark some sort of riot. I will hang out by the chip and dip bowl because like me they won't want to start a conversation.

What do you mean by "be the most draining"?

Introverts don't mind talking. We only like to talk when we have something to say that will contribute in some way to the conversation. The conversation has to be important. Small talk is the worst. Small talk is torture. When in big groups (or small groups or even around co-workers) small talk is required. But it is so tiring to, come up with and pretend to be, chatty. I honestly don't know what to say, especially if I'm not interested in the subject.

This is a real life example. Please don't judge me.

Co-worker showing me a picture of their new grandbaby.
"This is my grandson."
"Oh, how cute! How old is he?"
"He's six months."
"He's super cute. I like his mustache pacifier."
"Yeah, he's already got a mustache."
"Ha, ha, ha."
Cue awkward silence.

Seriously. I didn't know what to say after that. I tried thinking of something else to say or ask him about his grandchild but then all I could do was chastise myself for being a complete idiot. When I told John the story he laughed and told me to pretend I'm someone else.

"What would someone else say if you were listening to their conversation?"
"I dunno. Baby things?"
"Like what? Oh, what child of yours had a baby? How many grandchildren do you have? Are you going to spoil him?"
"Oh, yeah. Those all sound like something else a normal, sane person would say. God, that's so tiring. If I ask all those questions then he'll answer them."

For the most part, I really don't know what to say in small talk conversations. If you and I do not have a natural talking rhythm in the beginning I will have a hard time, if ever, easing myself into some sort of semi-normal dialogue. A five minute conversation can make my brain as tired as if I just delivered an hour speech. I'm hyper aware of what I'm saying, how you're responding to it, what I should have said, what I could have asked, by the end I just want to crawl into a hole and not say another word.

Because we introverts suck so much at small talk, we sometimes find ourselves saying things right off the bat which may come off as rude. We have to keep up with societal conventions of asking how the weather is before we start taking about that X-Rated scene in the episode of Dora the Explorer yesterday.

Why don't introverts like to go out? To a party? A bar? A club?

I love parties. I love bars. I can do without a club but other introverts I'm sure like those too. Why then are they not our usual Friday night hangout? Because we take things in quicker. For whatever reason we do not need to stay five hours at a club to understand that gross, sweaty men are just going to rub up against us offering to buy us cheap dollar beers. Now that I'm getting older, parties seem to take on a whole new meaning. I don't need to dodge the whole "When are you going to get married and have kids?" question 50 times before I know that I hate answering it and that even though I've answered 20 times my response is not getting any better. If introverts go out, they like to go out with their friends so that at least they know people with whom they will not have to initiate small talk.

Why do introverts need time alone? Don't you love me anymore?

Introverts need time alone to recharge. I don't exactly know what that means but I know that when I'm alone it's true. Being alone is the most relaxing feeling. You're guard is down, your able to float in your own imagination, thoughts, ideas. Being alone gives introverts time to get their creative juices flowing again. Whether it's reading a book, taking a long hot shower, or cooking, whatever it is that comforts and relaxes is a good thing. It has nothing to do with them not liking people whether it's their friends, family, or significant other. It just means that they need time to themselves to take a big breath.

How do you deal with your introversion?

Dealing sounds as if introversion is a problem. It's not. I don't go any more out of my way than any other person would to make sure they are happy. I try to live as happily as I can no matter what other people think. John, my few friends, and my mom, dad, and brother are all ok with me being an introvert. I think my entire family (mom, dad, brother) and John are introverts so we're in good company at least.

So, if you're an introvert you've probably already heard all about this. If you're an extrovert you've probably experienced some of these tendencies as there is no set Introvert/Extrovert chart. Everyone is on one line and you're either on the far left or far right or somewhere in between; it's more of a spectrum.

If, however you're new to introversion or just looking to cheer yourself up here are some famous introverts:

Albert Einstein


Alfred Hitchcock

Charles Darwin

Salvador Dali

Disclaimer: This is my experience on being an introvert. I'm sure other people are kinder and more normal about it.

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